On October 11, 1989, I had a meeting with Lawyer M at his office. Lawyer M was a middle-aged gentleman who was well known as a highly-educated person. His room looked like an office of a scholar and had a calm atmosphere just like the historic building where his office was located. After making small talk, Lawyer M deliberately broached a subject. "As for Toho, they want to solve all the problems between them and Mr. Kurosawa at a stroke once they came to an understanding. This has not been brought up to the topic before but there is a problem Toho has worried about for a long time. You know, Mr. Norisugi, about the judgement by the Tokyo District Court on 'The Seven Samurai', don't you?" "Yes, only in a general way, but I've never studied it in detail" "Well, this is a copy of the decision•••" and Lawyer M took the document out from his file. "As you are aware, this was the case where the issue was to determine who had the right to make the film of "The Seven Samurai", and the problem of transferring the remaking right from Toho to Alciona was the beginning of the issue". Lawyer M then took out a copy of the agreement between Toho and Alciona Productions, Inc. and gave me his interpretations. According to what he said, Toho made a contract in September 1960 with a U.S. company called Alciona Productions, Inc. and transferred to them the remaking right of "The Seven Samurai". On the contrary, the three scenario writers namely Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni, claimed that they owned the remaking right of "The Seven Samurai" as the writers of the scenario, not Toho. The three writers jointly wrote the scenario of "The Seven Samurai" and Toho made the film "The Seven Samurai" in 1954 based on this scenario. The problem is, whether the three writers gave Toho the right to make just one movie or the right to make any number of movies based on the scenario. Toho asserted that they had obtained so-called BUKKENTEKI EIGA KEN and therefore they could produce any number of movies based on such right. On the other hand, the writers including Akira Kurosawa referred to the practices of Japanese film business at that time and asserted that they had granted to Toho the right to make only one movie. The judgement of the lawsuit was given in 1978 and the Tokyo District Court judged that the three writers had the making right of "The Seven Samurai".
By this 1978 judgement of the Tokyo District Court, the transfer of the remake right from Toho to Alciona Productions, Inc. became an unauthorized transfer. That is to say, Toho had granted to a third party a right which they did not own. This is deemed as a blunt transfer of a stranger's belonging, and if he could not obtain the original owner's consent, the transferee, the other party of the contract, would pursue him for the responsibility. Thus, Toho was cornered at the position where Alciona would seek the responsibility of violating the agreement. "What Toho should have done was that when the judgement was made by the Tokyo District Court, they should have asked for ratification of Alciona Agreement through negotiations with Mr. Kurosawa and others. But for some reason they did not do so, and Toho is now under a quite unstable position where Alciona may ask for Toho's responsibility of violating the agreement at any time", Lawyer M said.
According to Lawyer M, this was a long-pending question of Toho, which should not be left neglected. As Toho's side, although they think that the amount Kurosawa Production was asking for was unreasonable, they were determined to accept the amount if and when Akira Kurosawa and other copyright owners of the scenario would ratify the Alciona Productions Agreement.